BOJ: Leader Of The New School
Growing up as a musically talented child in Nigeria, chances are you’ll get to a crossroads in your life where you’ll have to choose between following your passion or getting a ‘real job’. Unfortunately due to pressure and circumstances, most people fold and turn their back on their dreams but a few power through and make their mark.
Bolaji Odojukan popularly known as Boj is ⅓ of the musical trio DRB, the originators of the Alté lifestyle. He sits down with The Guardian Life to discuss his involvement in birthing the Alté sub-culture, his sources of inspiration, and the fascinating journey so far among other things.
How did it all begin for you?
I started making music in year 9 (JSS 3) but subconsciously, I had been getting musical inspiration from music my parents used to listen to like Lauryn Hill, Lagbaja, Wyclef, and all those kinds of people. So when I went to school I linked up with some of my guys who were already doing music.
Back then, DJ Cuppy was doing a concert and I was the only one from this school in England who wasn’t part of it and because of that, I decided to sing on one of the songs and from there I just started going.
What cemented the bond and caused DRB to chase the music hustle full time?
I think the fact that we started together at a young age and we all had a similar vision. Apart from starting music together, we were already friends from Nigeria and we went to England together so there was that brotherhood bond that translated into our adult life and career.
At what point did the vision become crystal clear?
I would say the vision became crystal clear for me in 2011 when I dropped “Gra Gra” and the reaction was overwhelming.
You, Teezee & Fresh L are credited with birthing the alternative sound in the Nigerian music scene, how did that happen?
People always get it confused, when we say Alté, we weren’t using it to describe alternative music because there are people that have been doing alternative music from time so it was more about the lifestyle we chose to live as opposed to the regular artiste’s lifestyle.
Again, in 2014, I said it [Alté] in a song ‘the ladies they love me cos I’m an alté guy’ and from there it just stuck. It wasn’t really about the sound because the sound was more like Afrofusion, a combo of afrobeat, R&B, Hip-Hop, and everything.
Did the Alté tag bring criticism from the mainstream and how did it affect you?
Yes, 100 per cent. I’ve always considered myself the outcast so that’s nothing new. We know that we’re completely different from the norm, we’re not expecting that people would just understand and that’s alright.
You’ve been making music and shaping the cultural landscape for over a decade. What would you identify as your major milestones in that time?
I would say that I feel like we inspired a lot of young people to be free and not go with the norm and for me, that’s one of the biggest things. Showing them that they don’t always have to be followers and they can do what they want to do and make things happen.
For DRB, it would be the consistency of hosting our own concerts every December and starting the culture of doing your own show, also being the first person to be recognized in the mainstream by the Headies award.
As an artiste, what have been some of your most unfortunate setbacks in the course of your career?
People have this idea that the Alté guys are from a well off background so we don’t really need this [music] so that hindered me a lot because people would just see me as well off and without saying anything to me they already think that I’m a snob. That was one of the challenges that we faced and still face today.
What inspires your music?
It might sound cliche but it’s literally personal experiences, and friends. You know it’s always about what’s happening or something that has happened. During this COVID time, it’s been hard but a few months before COVID, I got into a relationship and that also helped in terms of inspiration from little arguments and things that just happen and I also found out a lot about myself, you know, just spending a lot of time alone and also being vulnerable with someone I’m intimate with and the person being completely vulnerable with me.
What would the ideal Boj song sound like and which artistes (home & abroad) would you like to have on?
For me, I might have things to say but I wouldn’t realise until something triggers it so now, I can’t say who I would want to put on a song or what would inspire the song until I’m in a situation where I hear a beat and I’m like damn! I would love to have Rihanna and Wizkid or Rihanna and Burna Boy on this.
What can fans expect from you in the near future?
I have a new project coming and what I’m trying to portray is a new level unlocked. I have now come to a stage in my life where it’s like a new level of understanding and I’ve cut my hair so it’s a new aesthetic. It’s gonna be like Boj 2.0.